Thursday, April 29, 2010


Our Labors
in the Chadwick Archive

For several years now Jimbo Blachly and I have worked as the editors of the Chadwick Family Papers, a quiet scholarly task that has, nonetheless, generated a surprising amount of controversy, some of it heated. While we have considerable leeway with the papers, artifacts, and works of art, theirs is a proud and ancient family of dandies, aesthetes, amateur historians and sea captains that, especially in the face of its recent financial troubles, remains anxious about its position in history.

For this reason we’re obliged to find a place in our work for the contributions of the family’s own historians and to respond to the Chadwicks’ exacting editorial suggestions. Our editorship is in this sense a collaboration not merely between Blachly and myself, but between us and the Chadwicks. And yet the richness of the family’s archive far outweighs the administrative dilemmas and complex matters of etiquette sometimes involved in bringing it before the public.

A large portion of our task as editors has been to prepare educational installations and informational events about the family at the request of museums and non-profit arts institutions. What has been a surprise to me in my research, however, has been the rather Byzantine connections, historically, between the Chadwicks and these same institutions—a topic that has made for some embarrassment and even ill-will.

But as scholars we have felt it our duty to present these histories without simplifying or sanitizing them; indeed, Blachly and I could not be more revolted by the now several-decade turn in museum display away from rigor and detail and toward spurious claims about access and interactivity. But that’s another topic.

We offer here but a brief overview of our work for the Chadwicks, intended merely to acquaint the reader with the broad outlines of our archival labors. This sketch is supplemented in the main body of the blog, when needed, by both biographical details of some of the principal Chadwicks and prefatory notes on some of the particular circumstances surrounding the exhibitions, lectures and informational events for which we have assisted the family.

More on the family--a lecture by Lytle Shaw

More on the editors--an interview
The Golden Age Microbrewery

The Dutch Inn Model—or, as it is more popularly and recently known, the Golden-Age Microbrewery—was first brought before the curious public in April of 2008 at an Art Fair in the city of Chicago. As you gaze at these images I’d like first of all to banish the idea of the dollhouse from your mind. The Chadwicks were always very touchy about that comparison. And in fact it was one of their main reservations about letting their study model out of Chadwick Manor. Such a crass comparison is the main reason why the object that was presented in Chicago was not the original, but a reproduction of the even more detailed seventeenth-century Dutch tavern reconstruction that still belongs to the family (which, incidentally, one can catch a glimpse of in a rare filmic document of the Chadwicks at home, titled, rather ploddingly, At the Family Manor, The Chadwicks Demonstrate the Golden-Age Microbrewery with a Rendition of Jacob Cats).

As two bachelors who devoted an enormous amount of time to the elaborate construction of what appeared to most viewers indistinguishable from puppet theaters or miniature playthings, the Chadwicks were forced to appeal to the theoretical works that emerged from these three-dimensional models—like their Foreground Floor Debris—as proof both of their art historical worth and of their difference from the amateurish reproductions of Victorian interiors that remain the imaginative domain of pre-adolescent girls, where Mama and Papa are always right downstairs.

Ultimately, it was only through our own repeated reassurances that the Chadwicks were prevailed upon to let us construct a reproduction of the original tavern for the benefit of the curious art public. While painters have for centuries used such models to study the effects of light and shadow and the workings of perspectival illusion (Poussin, in fact, had a series of wax figurines for which he developed special, individualized accents), the Chadwicks apparently made rather a different use of their own device. After the purchase of genre paintings for Chadwick Manor, they would "restage" the speculative events that led to the various brawls, French exits, and to the copious arrays of mugs, tankards and pewter dishes that so consistently litter the foreground of golden-age Dutch paintings. Then Dalton would hold forth to assembled guests, discoursing on his eccentric theory of genre painting through one of the model inn's windows or doors. Not to be outdone, Torrent, too, used the model for his own purposes. And yet, less interested in the history of painting, Torrent took rather to a kind of ambient genre theater—endlessly casting down tiny tankards, upsetting mugs—and accompanying this activity with imitations of Dutch insults and exclamations.

The Chicago viewing of the Golden-Age Microbrewery marked the first time audiences outside Chadwick Manor saw even a reproduction of the device. What the Chadwicks refused to stage in the mall-like context of the art fair, however, was a live reading of the actual poems, especially by the seventeenth-century Dutch poet Jacob Cats, which they recited through the models various portals, both in the original Dutch and in the Chadwicks’ somewhat eccentric translations. Cats was a popular writer whose works on everyday life were eagerly read both by genre painters and by their patrons. While there is some debate about whether the Chadwicks knew enough Dutch to accomplish the translation accurately (those versed in the language may judge for themselves), we feel nonetheless that the Chadwick Dalton’s translation captures the multi-voiced atmosphere of the tavern that was its ostensible site.

Gronthowelick dat is:

Op, droeve sinnen, op. Waerom aldus geswegen?
Waerom soo langen tijdt in uwen rou gelegen?
Ey! drijft het swaer ghepeys ten lesten op de vlucht;
Het graf en gaet niet op hoe seerder yemand sucht.
Wien eens de bleecke doot heeft uyt het vleys genomen,
Die kan noyt wederom hier opter aerden komen;
Of yemant treurigh is, of byster ongesint,
Het is een stale wet, die alle menschen bint;
Ghy, schoon u wederhelft is van u afgesneden,
Troost efter u gemoet, en stelt u des te vreden;
Ghy sult haer weder sien, naer uwen lesten dagh,
Daer noyt de wreede doot haer pijlen schieten magh.
Mijn geest is nu belust aen Hollant yet te schencken,
Waer door men over langh noch onser sal gedencken,
Koom laet ons op een nieu yet brengen aen het licht,
Dat leet versoeten kan, en swacke sinnen sticht:
Yet dat een jongh gesel voor eerst behoort te lessen,
Yet dat een echte man sal dienstigh mogen wesen,
Yet dat een teere maeght sal leyden in de jeught,
Yet dat een deftigh wijf sal stijven in de deught.
Ick heb by een gebacht verscheyde trougevallen,
Om daer te mogen sien hoe jonge sinnen mallen,
En hoe een rijper aert bequamer wegen vint,
En hoe een reyne ziel haer tochten overwint.
Maer dat is niet genoegh. Wy moeten ondersoecken
Uit al wat Reden hiet, uyt alderhande boecken

—Jacob Cats

Grown so thick that it’s …

Up (droves singing) Up! We’re in all this—get swigging!
Wear ‘em swollen tits, into it, rude leggings!
Eh! Drift head! Sway the gypsy tent—loosen up the folk!
Heads crafted in grey night upholstery (demands suck):
Weenies, blackened soup, catsup, head fleas—you name it.
They cannot wear the wrong hair after ardent coming.
If you meant true rye, it’s off by stairs on descent.
That isn’t stale yet (they all mention pints).
Guy showing you where to have his van fumigated.
Trust after you get most installed—you test for vermin.
Guy sold her water scene, near Uncle Lester’s dock.
Day or night the reedy dock, her pidgin’s shitting mud.
My own guess is noblest in Holland—yet it takes shaking:
Weird door-men over lengths of notched osier solemnly thinking:
Comely tones open new yens, bringin’ a headlight!
That late they’re shooting cans and thwacking some old snitch.
Yet date a young gazelle? Four ears report to listen.
Yet date an icky man? It’s all dynasty, Moog investment.
Yet date a teary Meg? Guess I’ll lie down in the yuke.
Yet date a deep-dish wife? It’s all staged, Indie dude.
A cab buying good rock (very shady trucking fellow).
I’m there till morning—see’n all the young single mom’s in.
And who is reaching for air guitar, raging Vince?
And who is raising real hair, touching over wigs?
Mayor, that is not enough! Wine moldy, unders-soaking.
Hit at what reddens heads, and underhanded break-it.

(Trans. Chadwick Dalton)

Groan... tho he licks at its...

Up drove sinning, up. Why, all this swigging?
Why so long and tight ‘n Owen rowdy, jealous?
Hey! Drift head swear happiness won’t lessen up
Hat grabs and gay nights whose sister you want to kiss.
Wine eyes the bleak dude heaved right here lies nameless,
deacon not welcome here; sightly airs coming
of wanting truly, these pungent bystanders
My hat is stained, stale and wet, all these men are stiff;
guy, show’n you whether he’s fun, and you off guessing
True it’s after you gambled and folded….and your testy friend;
the guy with soiled hair, better scene near you when Lester dragged off
Darn right we wrecked that dude plying shitty hash
My guest is new and lost in Holland yet he’s thinkin’
Where dour men over long nights, honor all while sinkin’
Come lay it on me, new yet braggin-a hot light
That seat is soakin’ man, and smack that singer with a stick
Jet, that young gazelle her first cavorting session
Jet, she ain’t much man, Solomon (Ruysdale) danced a jig, muggin and weezin
Jet, that wine’s tearin me up. Sol’s got van der heyden in a headlock
Jet that ain’t delicate with Sol suckin’ in the dark
Yuck! Heddje… A wine debauched Versailles merchant passed out in the trough
I’m there till morning, seen old john sing’in and wailin’
Then home in a “ripped skirt” quandary, leggings stained.
And who ain’t payin! It’s all here… touching o’er th’ wind
Sir, my hat is not good enough?! Why moping with beer soaked undergarments.
you all drunk and red pete, old platters dammed broken,

(Trans. Torrent Chadwick)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reflections on the Chadwicks' Silver

A Partial Gloss from the Public Collections

The Chadwick Family silver collection was until its dispersion one of the largest and most esteemed in the world, comparable perhaps only with the Queen’s at Whitehall and with that of the Victoria and Albert Museum. For four centuries, as the Chadwicks amassed this stunning array of tea services, tankards, and ceremonial steins, they were in close connection with the world’s most respected silversmiths—in London, Amsterdam and, later, in New Amsterdam, Boston and Philadelphia. Frequently the family commissioned pieces and entire collections as occasional memorials of major events in the family’s and their nations’ history—entwined as those two stories were for several halcyon centuries. This posting presents only a small fraction of the collection, selected for especial historical interest. Our effort has been not merely to document the pieces themselves, but to give as full a picture as possible of the rituals and occasions of their use, the elaborate social life in which these material objects were embedded.

A preliminary note on the photographs, however, is in order. We regret that the dispersion of the collections has made impossible the professional studio photography the family envisioned for the publication. Indeed the Chadwicks hoped that all of these specimens might be briefly united at Chadwick Manor for a blockbuster retrospective exhibition that would coincide with the kind of thorough documentation that, alas, never came to pass when the work was in the family’s hands.

But several years of unfruitful correspondence with the historical and fine arts institutions that now house the silver convinced us otherwise: tedious bureaucratic demands, exorbitant insurance policies, outrageous museum fees, and even the suspicion that the Chadwicks might use the occasion to retain the originals and substitute reproductions all toppled this grand design. Nor were these same museums even amenable to our temporarily removing the pieces from their vitrines and display cases in order to photograph them properly in the safety of their home institutions. In fact several museums positively barred photography of any kinds—and even discouraged us from visiting. And thus it was that Blachly and I were forced to photograph these vessels surreptitiously with our pocket cameras under display and lighting conditions far from ideal. Still we felt that even this partial and somewhat compromised representation of the family’s collection was preferable to an utter gap in the historical record.

When Queen Elizabeth asked Paxton Chadwick to write his definitive 1951 catalog essay for the Royal Collections, The Crown Jewels, it was certainly because his own family collections, and his well-known silver connoisseurship, put him in an unrivaled position. The Queen knew full well that Chadwick could bracket both his own familial allegiances and his own notorious left-wing leanings and, as a loyal subject of the Crown, concentrate his enormous energies on the other great English collection without competition or avarice. Indeed the situation paralleled the Metropolitan Museum of art’s hiring of Bashford Dean as curator of Arms and Armor in 1906, since Dean, too, was the most highly esteemed amateur collector then known in the country. And if the Metropolitan may have had an eye toward the eventual donation of the Dean Collection, who can fault them? Certainly Chadwick too would have considered a similar donation to the Royal Collection had not pressing family debts made this impossible. Elizabeth’s private correspondence suggests that she understood this obligation.

Though Paxton is listed as the illustrator, this was merely because academic protocol in the United Kingdom frowned upon an amateur being offered such a prestigious commission. And thus, at the urging of his close friend Sir Anthony Blunt, Chadwick invented the pseudonym of “Oliver Warner,” which seems to have been based both on his son (Oliver Chadwick) and his love of Hollywood films, particularly those of Warner Brothers. But Chadwick was not mistaken in predicting authorship for his son. For, if the Chadwick family collection began its process of dissolution in the 1950s and 60s, still at least Paxton’s fine connoisseurship was passed along to Oliver Chadwick—our principal authority for the present work—who was commissioned in 1975 to write what remains the most respected guide to collecting silver in England, titled simply English Silver. Indeed his unpublished manuscript on the history of the family’s own collection has frequently informed our own work here. Alas Oliver Chadwick was such a silver enthusiast, or “buff,” and above all such a stickler for fine condition that his own excessive use of cleaning solvents seems to have led to his addiction. In any case he was first in jail and then in rehabilitation by the mid-1980s and, as part of the condition of his parole, was the publication of his 1991 Inhalant Abuse.

But that, praise be to St. Dunstan, is now but a cloudy afternoon in the vast landscape of the Chadwick family history. And whatever problems the younger Chadwick may eventually have encountered, there is no question that he was a keen observer of silver. Chadwick was, first off, a particular expert on Regency sauce-boats. And he was, more generally, a celebrant of the larger dinner services, with multiple tureens, which he saw as adding “remarkable continuity to the furnishings of the table” (37). The highest grade period sauce-boat, as he defined it—“an essentially boat-shaped bowl, with looped handles at either end, standing on a single oval foot”—had for Chadwick “a delightfully light design that was usually given border decoration in the form of beading, reeding or gadrooning” (45). (The reader will note several such sauce-boats in the present work.)

By contrast “very few epergnes ever captured quite the right degree of elegance and lightness” (45). Though Chadwick did recommend an occasional deal in the world of silver collecting—as for instance, that “whalebone-handled toddy ladles” remained an especial bargain in the otherwise prohibitive domain of Georgian silver (39)—his more common stance was to point out overvaluations and downright fraud, for which he had a famous nose. I cite but one of many examples of on-the-spot connoisseurship from his standard work:

I was once admiring what was apparently a fine example of a Georgian bullet-shaped teapot, which I had found on the shelves of a well-known London dealer. The hall-mark was clear and unrubbed, an important factor, particularly when the mark is on the side of the pot and exposed to the abrasion of cleaning. [Actually, this was a problem particular to Chadwick’s own rather over-scrubbed silver and not as rampant a concern as he suggests] I breathed on the mark to show it in better detail and suddenly noticed what was wrong. A faint line encircled the mark. The teapot was a clever Victorian copy. The Georgian hall-mark had been obtained from a broken article and inserted into it. The deception had been remarkably well done, for the mark was in no way distorted; so well done, in fact, that the dealer had been completely taken in. He had bought the teapot in good faith and was very unhappy to have to remove it from his shelf. But there was no alternative. The law is very strict, and rightly so. (9-10).

Chadwick’s remarkable detective work made him few friends among storeowners. But it did raise him considerably in the public esteem. Nor were Chadwick’s judgments on the established canon of English silversmiths more sparing than his discoveries in Chelsea windows. Chadwick could remark, for instance, of the great eighteenth-century silversmith Paul de Lamarie that “his enthusiasm for grotesque ornamentation sometimes overtook his sense of balance and proportion” (35). Or, even more surprisingly, he could simply find overrated the most famous woman in silver history: “It is interesting to speculate exactly why Hester Bateman enjoys so elevated a position in the hierarchy of English silversmiths, for there is no doubt that her pieces command extremely high prices, sometimes almost double those of her equally able contemporaries. Perhaps it is because she was a woman in a man’s world that she has caught the public’s fancy, but it is certainly the case that, despite her skillful work and considerable output, there were many others who were unquestionably her equal” (43). Composed at the height of the women’s liberation movement in the mid-1970s, Chadwick was perhaps venting his frustration on a mute target.

Perhaps more to the point are his frustrations about both the great episodes of waste in the history of silver and then the decline of modern silver-smithing. Of the former, Chadwick remarked that the Cromwellian interregnum was the most prodigal of all such episodes, when, “in a few short years was wiped out the legacy of centuries” (20).

The effect of the Civil War on English silversmithing was drastic and violent. The wealth of pieces that were, only ten years before, a part of the normal way of life, had been by 1650 almost entirely melted down to finance the two warring sides. The demand for silver coin was so acute that when Admiral Blake succeeded in capturing a Spanish fleet and its cargo of silver, the relief was sufficient for Cromwell to decree a day of National Thanksgiving (20).

Still, silver connoisseurs were treated to a solid century of high grade work after the Restoration, and to more inconsistent though occasionally quite strong work up until the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. But by the late-18th century, as Chadwick notes, “The boisterous winds of a new era were scurrying away the traditions of centuries and things were never quite the same again” (42). Silver production limped along in the undistinguished, eclectic world of Victorian aesthetics. But it never regained its early eighteenth-century, or Britannia standard, luster. For Chadwick, the very last gasp of silver production was art nouveau, itself rather an iffy proposition for silver making. But in any case, “As the century progressed no other style emerged to fill the gap.” This was because, the Bauhaus,

which might have been expected to produce some startling innovations, seemed to ignore silver completely and the twin factors of stainless steel and mass production have served to drive it into something of a backwater. Today stainless steel, china and earthenware have largely assumed the mantle once monopolized by silver, while the most noble of crafts lingers on in what is almost a mockery of itself, reproducing the old designs ad nauseam. (56).

Chadwick felt defensive enough about his last remark to add a proviso: “If this remark seems sweeping and disparaging to an industry struggling to retain its slipping status, it is certainly not intended” (56). Indeed Chadwick notes a few fine pieces can still be found—before continuing with his lament: “It is, however, to the shoddy pieces, poorly fashioned and poorly finished, that we must take exception. In an age where the sub-standard is accepted as normal, it is unfortunate that they should be so numerous” (57).

What remains to be noted, then, are a few of the features and ceremonial uses of the Chadwick collection. Though Oliver Chadwick was reluctant in a general work like English Silver to mention his own family’s famous presentation pieces he nonetheless touches on the general topic when he remarks on the “large numbers” of “presentation pieces … inspired by the succession of victories that were sustained during the Napoleonic Wars. After that at Trafalgar, Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund made presentations to all the admirals and captains present at the battle” (48). Several of these, as well as many of the best from the family collection, have come to rest in the Victoria and Albert Museum. What separated the Chadwick family practice, however, from the national commemorative or presentation piece, was the Chadwicks’ elaborate sense of history.

To be continued ...

Chadwick's Illustrated History

Chadwick's Illustrated History has been a standard work for generations. The present hand-colored print edition includes three highlights from among the thousands of vivid archival drawings and prints reproduced in the history. These have been mounted in a handmade commemorative burgundy folio complete with the family seal and this explanatory text.

Though the Chadwicks hardly need an introduction, still the family is not as well known now as it was from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, when its prominent trans-Atlantic role in colonial and early national affairs brought family members constantly before the public eye. As eminent connoisseurs, sea captains, naval engineers and amateur historians, the Chadwicks amassed one of the great collections of nautical figurines, genre paintings and difficult-to-attribute manuscripts in Western culture. Held privately at the family estates for several centuries, this material is now finding its way before the long-curious public. This is a process overseen by the conservator J. Blachly and the literary historian Lytle Shaw, editors of the Chadwick Family Archive.

The Temporary Museum of Vaseline in Perth Amboy

Temporary Museum of Vaseline in Perth Amboy (2009-Ongoing)

The possibility of such a museum emerged as a happy by-product of ongoing research for the Chadwicks. We had been studying the Amboys with the hopes of locating lost portraits of Chadwick family members produced in the New Jersey town by one of the first American artists, John Watson 1685-1763—also the first keeper of an American museum.

Though the portraits are still lost, we have during an archaeological cave exploration in the Amboys discovered a series of Chadwick family artifacts preserved in a substance very similar to Vaseline—a product that was not produced commercially in Perth Amboy (or anywhere else) until the late nineteenth century.

Was it possible that a naturally occurring Vaseline spring preceded industrial production of the lubricant? More research funding was needed.

To achieve this end we have sought the involvement of several cultural institutions crucial to the history of the Amboys, especially Chesebrough (the manufactures of Vaseline) and the Guggenheim family, which established its first commercial plant—for copper smelting—in the Amboys in the 1890s.

As our research progressed, we became stuck on a number of enigmatic coincidences: the linked origins in the Amboys of American painting, American museums, the Guggenheim empire, and the gooey medium popularized by several prominent Guggenheim artists. These strands of American culture were simply too interwoven to be untangled or smoothed over.

And so Blachly and I propose the Temporary Museum of Vaseline in Perth Amboy as a way to explore their interrelations, while also bringing attention to the region’s unique history in preparation for a more permanent institution such as Guggenheim, The Amboys—an edifice probably still some years in the future.

The Genretron

The Genretron (2008)

For a video of the inside of the Genretron (as installed at Seven in Miami, December 2010), scroll to the bottom of this page, after following the link.

(Press Release from the 2008 Exhibition at Winkleman Gallery)

A reproduction of the Chadwicks’ Genretron will go on public view, for the first time, October 10th at Winkleman Gallery in New York—637 West 27th Street in Chelsea. The jewel of Chadwick Manor, the Genretron is a panoramic model built by the Chadwicks in the nineteenth century for the close study of Dutch landscape painting. Viewing from the central oculus, the Chadwicks used the surrounding diorama to immerse themselves in the physical atmosphere of their favorite landscapists—Hobbema, Ruisdael, Van Goyen, Van der Neer, Van Ostade, and many of the lesser shipwreck artists. This kind of immersion was crucial for their eccentric and little-known treatises on landscape aesthetics and genre painting, like Foreground Floor Debris (which hangs concurrently in the gallery).

Still largely unpublished, this theoretical writing sheds light on the extreme values the family brought to the appreciation of Dutch painting. In one of the latest and most strident of these works—The Onanist Cloud—the Chadwicks wrote of seventeenth-century Dutch art as the definitive moment in which landscape painting “vomited up the tyrant Christian landlords” who had until then “monopolized space with their tired stories.” The effect of these stories in the painting, to the Chadwicks’ way of thinking, had “contorted surrounding bodies into doctrinal registration machines whose gestures bureaucratized time.” For the Chadwicks it was Dutch painting that cleared this situation away, providing “infinite reservoirs of liberatingly mundane sequence”—freed from “managerial psychologies shown ‘absorbing’ heroic narrative messages, or simply undergoing History with a capital H.” The Chadwicks wrote of liberating mundanity not because they sought to avoid the ‘big issues,’ but because they found those issues precisely in art, like Dutch genre painting, that dispersed rather than packaged narrative—opening it to an infinity of paths and itineraries.

Though the Chadwicks hardly need an introduction, still the family is not as well known now as it was from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, when its prominent role both in polite society of London and in greener colonial outposts like New Amsterdam brought family members constantly before the public eye. As eminent connoisseurs, sea captains, naval engineers and amateur historians, the Chadwicks amassed one of the great collections of nautical figurines, genre paintings and difficult-to-attribute manuscripts in Western culture. Held privately at the family estates for several centuries, this material is now finding its way before the long-curious public. This is a process overseen by the conservator J. Blachly and the literary historian Lytle Shaw, editors of the Chadwick Family Archive—principal overseers, also, of the current Genretron reconstruction.

New Amsterdam's Chadwijks

New Amsterdam’s Chadwijk’s (2007-ongoing)

Another component of our research for the family deals with the rich materials of the Anglo/Dutch branch of the family that settled in New Amsterdam, some with the variant name Chadwijk. Our research into this line of the family is very much ongoing; still, we have felt it appropriate here to include some documentation of this treasure trove: an aesthetic treatise, Foreground Floor Debris; a study model, The Golden-Age Microbrewery (pictured above), and Fort Chadwijk, the transcript of a tour of the architectural contributions to New Amsterdam made by the designer and engineer Cornelius van der Chadwijk.

Bashford's Grotto

Bashford’s Grotto (2006)
Bashford’s Grotto was an informational exhibition at Wave Hill in the Bronx about the Riverdale Chadwicks’ mysterious neighbor, Bashford Dean, who, in addition to being a professor of ichthyology at Columbia, a famous arms and armor collector, and an adviser on helmets and body armor for the allies in WW1, was also a curator, simultaneously, of fishes and reptiles at the Museum of Natural History and arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum.

Unlike the other exhibitions, “Bashford’s Grotto” began not with an invitation, but rather with two younger Chadwicks taking the initiative to research their neighbor on the grounds of Wave Hill, which as it turned out, did not recognize the Chadwicks’ ancestral right-of-way; nor did they appreciate the improvised excavation within Wave Hill’s sumptuous gardens that was necessary to unearth the relevant archaeological specimens. That these specimens—in particular a scale model of a pyrotechnics forge whose outer casing resembled an enormous volcano—turned out to demonstrate amazing and as yet unrecognized facts about Dean was perhaps what led to the Chadwicks’ release from prison; it was certainly what led to the exhibition at Wave Hill, which Blachly and I, in the Chadwicks’ absence, were forced to install.

Nor were the controversies over then. First, the Chadwicks offered a public lecture on Dean in Dean’s own armor hall at Wave Hill, a reasonable enough venture except that Chadwick Dalton IV (one of the unauthorized excavators) decided to deliver the lecture in a full suit of plate-mail and, thinking that Torrent Chadwick III (his accomplice) was still in prison, proceeded to blame the latter’s branch of the family for the misunderstandings about the excavations.

But in fact Torrent arrived part way through the lecture, learned of its contents, and the lecture devolved first into shouting and then into a jousting match.

After the Chadwicks had cooled off, they asked us to help them prepare the contents of their discovery for an article in Cabinet magazine. This same magazine that had benefited from the Chadwick Family’s remarkable collections in the Gordon Matta-Clark tour, now, without consulting us, invited a German historian, Maiken Umbach, to write a scathing critique of the Chadwicks’ findings—appended to our article! Umbach claimed, preposterously, that Dean’s garden volcano was derived, unacknowledged, from a German Enlightenment precedent—an absurd argument we will not even address here.

Bad Seed

Bad Seed (2005)
The Chadwicks’ ill-fated exhibition in Philadelphia, “Bad Seed,” (2005) documented the family’s ongoing archaeological work on Hieronymus Chadwick Bartram in relation to his better-known relative, the eighteenth-century American botanist John Bartram. Presented on the grounds of Bartram’s Garden (in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia), the Chadwicks’ sunken vitrine of specimens and texts—which was later destroyed!—reconstructed the bizarre history of H. C. Bartram’s attempt in effect to graft himself onto the Bartram family’s lucrative seed business by courting Elizabeth Bartram (William's twin sister, born in 1739) around 1824, when she was in her mid 80s and he was in his late teens. Because of Elizabeth's senility Hieronymus’s argument that the two were married may in fact have been true. In any case it was the basis of his adopting the Bartram last name and entering the family seed business—to disastrous results, including fraud, conflagration, drunkenness, breaking and entering and taxonomic incompetence.

Concerns about the project prompted the curators to require that the vitrine be placed at the far, swampy corner of the Bartram’s Garden grounds, just across a broken fence from an abandoned gypsum factory.

Neighborhood children roared through this area, tearing up the ground on their four-wheel off road motorcycles; yellow police tap lingered from a recent murder.

Worse than the siting, however, the curators also requested that we make public the family papers on which our research had been based. Because the Chadwicks sternly refused, on principle, to comply with such a request, Blachly and I were forced to compose a brief text, “Detached Sentences on the Chadwicks,” out of the family’s historic press clippings, personal correspondence and memorabilia. Though it was designed to put to rest the curators’ questions, unfortunately neither they nor the Chadwicks were quite satisfied. And yet I hope that a disinterested reader may nonetheless benefit from these sentences.

Arrayed comfortably each evening on their various verandas, the sun in fact never sets on the Chadwick family.

Though amateurs, the Chadwicks are utterly professional.

Perhaps because of their easy upper crust manners and ready wit, the Chadwicks have lived for several centuries (their detractors say) on the luster of their long-vanished fortunes.

In view of your family’s broad historic contributions to culture, and with a knowledge of the good intentions underlying your misrepresentations, we will let this go with a warning.

Several of the songs and all of the photographs on the Japanese pop band Pizzicato Five's record, Made in USA, are rumored to have been inspired by the Chadwicks.

In view of your enormous debts, repeated public drunkenness and, above all, your reckless disregard for the facts of others’ private histories, I shall have to suggest that, as a learning experience the likes of which will last you a lifetime, you join the intimate pastoral community at Sing-Sing for a period not less than 12 months.

One or the other of the Chadwicks has often been seen fast asleep over a cheap novel in the den of the Algonquin club.

The Chadwicks have ceased reading the daily paper's reports on the Chadwicks.

In the aftermath of their ferocious spats, the Chadwicks have often been heard to raise a glass with the toast, "consensus is overrated."

While other New York connoisseurs have loudly bemoaned the loss of Asher Durand’s beloved Kindred Spirits to the Wal-Mart family, the Chadwicks have quietly begun following the painting.

Some scholars have taken exception to a few of the Chadwicks' most astonishing documents.

The Chadwicks do not care to answer questions about their holdings in print.